Going green in the office.
12 ways to make your workplace more eco-friendly
Going green in the office isn’t as difficult or costly as you might think. A few small changes can have a massive impact on your office’s environmental footprint.
Here are some tips on how to change people behaviours and introduce eco-friendly systems in your organisation.
- Start from your mission and company values – This is where it all starts. Make sure that your company’s mission statement reflects your values. For example, a good mission statement can include commitments to practicing social and/or environmental responsibility or to creating a specific environmental impact.
- Set up a sustainability team – A sustainability team can both raise awareness and work on projects such as starting or enabling a more successful recycling program, or helping to inform purchasing decisions on energy-efficient appliances and green cleaning supplies. The sustainability task force can also provide training for your employees on sustainability issues. A simple way to implement this is to hold ‘lunch and learns’ where you either bring in a speaker, share a video, or facilitate a discussion on a topic related to sustainability.
- Go paperless -This tip almost seems trivial given the digital age we now live in. From cloud storage services to digital pay stubs, the need for paper and printers in the workplace has rapidly decreased in past two decades. Diminish the temptation to print by reducing the amount of printers in your office and donating them to a local school or non-profit organisation in need.
- Turn off electrics, lighting and heating every evening – Have you ever noticed how many lights are kept on in offices all night long for no reason? Why not instating a strict ‘everything-off-at-night’ rule instead? And if you want to go one step further – if someone forgets, they have to put some money in a Green Jar, which can be donated to an environmental cause.
- Maximise natural light and replace traditional bulbs with LEDs – Relying more on natural light when possible also saves energy. If this is not achievable, consider replacing all lighting fixtures with LEDs, as well as incorporating sensors and timers for office lighting. By just doing that, you will see energy saving benefits on your next bill and you will reduce your office’s carbon footprint.
- Separate ground coffee and food waste – When coffee grounds and other food wastes are sent to landfill, they decompose to produce methane, a greenhouse gas with more than 20 times the global warming capacity of carbon dioxide. It’s also a loss of an intensive source of nutrients and energy, as well as a potential source of hazardous pathogens and organic leachates that can contaminate surface and ground water. If coffee grounds and other food wastes are recycled, however, valuable organic matter and nutrients can be recaptured for use as soil fertilisers, conditioners and mulch, and methane can be captured for electricity generation.
- Encourage green commuting or working from home – Companies can encourage employees to lower commuting emissions by walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transit to the office, and offering incentives to do so. Also, offering work-from-home policies can significantly reduce your company’s carbon footprint.
- Create an environmentally friendly suppliers’ policy – Many companies are now making an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Choose those businesses that have a like-minded approach as your partners. You can develop a supplier policy to screen them for positive social and environmental impacts. Also, it’s a good idea to have clear guidelines in place that outline what you can purchase and what you can’t. This will ensure that your purchases are aligned with your business values, even if you have turnover in purchasing staff.
- Reduce waste- Replace all disposable products in the staff kitchen, including plates, cups, cutlery, and use reusable items instead. If you need to make the business case to management to get approval for this, look at how much you spend each year on disposables and compare that to how much it will cost to purchase a set of plates, glasses, and utensils. The change will usually pay for itself in a short period of time. You can also set up proper signage for each waste, recycling, and compost bin and staple samples of items to show which bin it should go into.
- Set up a BYORB policy (Bring Your Own Reusable Bottle) – Bringing your own bottle, tumbler, or coffee mug to work is one of the easiest and healthiest eco-initiatives to institute in the office. Having personalised mugs or special glasses are a fun element, which also foster personal expression. A BYORB policy will not only reduce the plastic waste in your office, but will also boost productivity and encourage employees to swap out sugary canned drinks for something more hydrating.
- Decorate the office with plants – The benefits of office plants are numerous. Plants not only bring beautiful rich shades of green to the workplace, they also offer the visually-meditative experience that, ultimately, leads to happier and healthier employees – who are also more productive. Office plants clean the air and reduce noise levels by reducing reverberation time. Plants placed in areas with hard surfaces such as hardwood floors, concrete and marble walls, will effectively absorb noises which can be distracting and hurt employee productivity. Also, an office teeming with vibrant greenery will convey a positive brand image to visitors.
- Abiding by the Chartered Institute of Procurement’s ethical procurement code – To take a further step towards a more ethical and sustainable business you can abide to the code promoted by the Chartered Institute of Procurement. Organisations adopting the code will need to commit to eradicating unethical business practices, actively support and promote corporate social responsibility, put ethical policies and procedures in place and ensure compliance.
In conclusion one last tip to make all these changes happen. If you really want your green policies to work, consider incentivising those changes. When it comes to going green, changing human behaviour is always the biggest challenge. You can supply compost bins and micro-fibre cloths but these changes are only successful when employees buy into the idea and follow the new, eco-friendly systems correctly. So, if you’re serious about going green in the office, be sure to include employee incentive and appreciation programs in your sustainability road map.